For Tony Sanchez, spring training is a bit of a wonderland. The Pirates 2009 first-round pick is in camp for the first time, so while hard work is his number-one priority, you can’t exactly begrudge him for soaking in the atmosphere just a little. The 21-year-old Boston College product is the Bucs’ catcher of the future, but he’s also a wide-eyed rookie getting his first taste of springtime in Bradenton. It is an experience he won’t soon forget.
On his expectations coming in: “I have zero expectations of where I should be playing. I’m coming into this camp to learn as much as possible and to show the Pirates that I can hold my own with this kind of talent. I’m in no rush to get anywhere and as of right now I’m just enjoying the process. This is going to be my first full season and I’m looking forward to another good year and a chance to excel at higher levels.”
On walking into the clubhouse in Bradenton for the first time: “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I still walk around with a smile on my face. It’s great being surrounded by guys like this — an unbelievable environment — and anything they say, I’m always listening. It is lockers full of gear with hundreds of big-league bats and sometimes 10 pairs of shoes to one locker. It’s like Christmas in February and I’m just soaking it all in.”
On meeting many of his future Pirates teammates: “It’s a great time to start relationships with guys that I could be playing with in the future. and they all seem like genuine good guys who want better for this organization. It’s only been five days and I’ve already developed a few good relationships. Every day I meet someone new and learn something from someone who has so much to teach. Whether it is hitting in the cages with Erik Kratz, who was our Triple-A all-star catcher, or doing catching drills with Ryan Doumit, I always have a chance to learn.”
On interacting with the big league coaching staff: “I’ve met the entire staff and have worked with most of them on taking my game to the next level. Obviously, they’re not going to be able to teach me everything they know in just a short month, but having the chance to listen to Don Long [talk] about hitting, or Joe Kerrigan [talk] about pitch calling and controlling a game, or even having manager John Russell watch batting practice, is an experience I’d never even dreamed of.”
On the daily routine in the first week of camp: “Every day is basically the same. I get into the clubhouse at around 7:30, change and get ready for my early work that starts at 8:20, which consists of catching drills and some hitting, and then usually we’ll have a meeting to go over that day’s focus points. After our meeting, we go outside to stretch and do our active warm-ups and throw. Then we break with our positions and catchers go and do catching fundamentals for about half an hour. This can be receiving, blocking, pick offs, throwing to the bases, pop ups, plays at the plate and rundowns. After that we go to catch bullpens which is usually about three pitchers per guy. After that the catchers spilt to hit batting practice on two different fields for about 15 minutes. When BP is over we do some sort of conditioning, whether it be core work, agility, or sprints. Once our day outside is done, we have to come in and get our lifts in at least four times a week.”
On the bullpens he has caught thus far: “Every bullpen I’ve caught has been a pretty good bullpen. All of these guys have so much control and movement on their pitches, it’s no wonder they’re pitching at these levels. It’s almost hard to catch them, so I can’t imagine trying to hit these guys. So far I’ve caught guys like Zach Duke, Brad Lincoln, Donald Veal, Brian Bass, Jeff Sues, Virgil Vasquez, Bryan Morris, Jeremy Powell and a few others. all whom have great stuff and who really impressed me.”